The Lonely Space Dragon
by Sammy McNeil
2014-16 The Last NEBADOR Writing Contest, third place
This story takes place primarily in the region of the broken planet Sonmatia Five, which we call an asteroid belt. The crew of the Manessa Kwi visited one piece of it, planetary fragment five-three-three, in NEBADOR Book Five: Back to the Stars.
The space dragon was playing with his friends on a nice sunny day. Every day is sunny in space, so he and his friends played every day. Whack-An-Asteroid was their favorite game, but sometimes they played Hide-And-Seek in the rings and moons of one of the gas giant planets.
Everything changed so fast, the space dragon's head was still spinning hours later. Something had exploded, and all the space dragons went tumbling for millions of miles.
When he finally quit tumbling, none of his friends were around, the planets and asteroids and comets all looked different, and even the sun was a different color. He was lost and alone.
At first, the space dragon felt afraid. But slowly it came to him that he never had to clean up his asteroids ever again, and he never had to mop or dust the planets where he had made a mess. He started to think that maybe being alone wasn't so bad.
He explored his new home. It had four rocky planets, another one that had broken up into asteroids, four gas giants, and some moons and comets and other small things. One of the planets had some little tiny creatures on it, and another had some tiny crumbling buildings, but not another space dragon anywhere.
The space dragon started to feel lonely.
After taking a nap, the space dragon decided to look for a friend. Maybe there were no other space dragons, but maybe there was someone who would be his friend.
He started with the asteroid belt where he felt most at home. Some of the pieces were big enough to have caves, so he looked into all of them, and called out, "Is anyone in there? I'm looking for a friend."
There were some pretty crystals in some of the caves, but no one the space dragon could play with.
Next he spotted a comet flying toward the sun. He knew that comets sometimes had giant ice spiders. They were a bit serious, and didn't like to play Whack-An-Asteroid, but maybe one of them would be his friend.
He flew all around the comet, dodging chunks of rock and ice that broke off to make the tail. "Any giant ice spiders want to play?" he called.
After a while he gave up. This comet didn't have any giant ice spiders, or anyone else.
He tried all the planets. The first one didn't have anything but tiny crystals almost too small to see. The second was all yellow air and crumbled building, and no one alive that he could see. The third had lots of little animals, but they all acted afraid of the space dragon and hid in their houses, caves, or trees. And anyway, few of them could fly in the air, and none of them could fly in space, so they were boring.
The fourth planet didn't have much air, which was fine with the space dragon, but no one was alive. Only a few old stones showed the space dragon that maybe someone had lived there once, a long time ago.
The space dragon sighed, and took another nap in the sunshine.
Soon the space dragon was feeling very sad and bored, so he started playing Whack-An-Asteroid by himself. At first he would play both sides, first whacking, then rushing over to the other side to whack the asteroid back.
That got boring, so he just started whacking at asteroids, not really caring where they went. That helped with his frustration, too.
He had whacked almost a hundred asteroids, but had lost count, when he came to an asteroid that looked different from all the rest. It was a perfect golden ball. He took a good look at it. "Are you an asteroid?" he asked.
The golden ball was silent, so he got ready to give it a good whack with his tail. He was thinking that it might bounce off other asteroids without breaking like the others did. He sung his tail toward it, but hit nothing, and that made him tumble a ways.
After he quit tumbling, he looked back at the golden ball. It had moved! It had moved out of the way when he tried to whack it. That was very strange.
The space dragon flew back and got ready the whack it again. This time he swung his tail slowly so he could keep an eye on the golden ball. His tail moved toward it, but it dashed out of the way again. He didn't tumble this time, since he had flicked his tail slowly.
"You are a very strange asteroid!" he said, not really expecting anyone to hear him. He swung his tail back to take another shot at the golden ball.
"Stop that!" someone said.
The space dragon was so surprised that he quit trying to whack the golden ball. "Who said that?"
The golden ball bounced back and forth a few times. "I did. I'm a very strange asteroid because I'm NOT an asteroid. I'm a ship!"
"What's a ... ship?" the space dragon asked.
"I'm a container for other being who need to travel a long ways, like ... maybe ... a space dragon who has lost his family and friends."
The space dragon just floated in space and frowned.
"Sorry I didn't talk to you sooner, but I had to hear you say a few things to figure out what language you were speaking. Then I had to call my home to find out why you were all alone out here and just whacking asteroids to get out your frustrations."
The space dragon quit frowning since the golden ball seemed to understand him, and that felt nice. "I guess ... I am ... frustrated. Sorry I was trying to whack you."
"You're forgiven. So ... do you want a ride?"
"Um ... where?"
"Your sun brew up. Space dragons are spread all over the galaxy. Most of them are alone, and none of them like it much. We found them a solar system with lots of asteroids, and no other people that would hate space dragons whacking rocks all over the place. Do you want to join them?"
"I have to tell you some things first that you might not like."
The space dragon coiled up and didn't say anything for a long time. The golden ball waited.
Finally the space dragon swallowed. "I don't like hearing bad things."
"I know you don't. You've very young. But I either have to tell you now, or you'll find out when you get there."
"Um ... okay."
"Not all your family and friends will be there when you arrive. Some died when your sun exploded. Some might be so lost that we'll never find them."
The space dragon felt like crying but didn't want the golden ball to see. "Go away!"
The ship moved away and landed on the far side of the nearest asteroid, but did it slowly enough so the space dragon could see exactly where it went.
An hour later, the space dragon flew slowly around the nearest asteroid. "I ... want to ... talk to you some more."
"Okay," the ship said and took off from the asteroid.
"I'd like to have friends to play with again, but I'd rather fly there myself. Will you tell me where they are?"
"Sure, but it would take you about ten years to fly there by yourself, and most of that time you'd be in the darkness between stars. You only got here quickly because of your exploding sun."
"Wow ... ten years ... that's a long time."
The golden ball didn't say anything.
"And ... you can take me there quicker?"
"Yes. It'll take about an hour, and you'll sleep most of the way."
"I like taking naps."
The ship didn't say anything, but opened its hatch and made it big enough for the space dragon.
"Um ... this is kinda scary. What's in there?"
"Six little animals who help me with everything I need to do. They've cleared the middle of the ship for you, and are in space suits right now because they can't live without air, and the hatch is open."
"Are they ... nice?"
"Yes, but they can't speak your language, so they'll just run the ship and leave you alone."
The space dragon looked into the hatch. He could see a place big enough for him to coil up in, and he could see the little animals in space suits working at their stations on one side. It looked safe enough. He stuck one toe in. Nothing happened. He stuck his head in. One of the animals waved and then went back to whatever it was doing.
After thinking about it for a little while longer, the space dragon slipped inside the golden ball ship, coiled up in the open space, and soon felt so sleepy, he couldn't keep his eyes open.